Reader Karl writes in about vodka quality:
“In reference to Vodka you stated “you get what you pay for.” Not true. Vodka is a neutral spirit because it is distilled at such a high temperature. It has no natural flavor or odor. So, when buying Vodka you should always buy the cheapest brand as long as it is the same proof as other brands.”
Sure, Karl, it is true that vodka is a neutral spirit devoid of flavor. However, just like anything, refinement makes for a better product. Typically, cheap spirits are single distilled, which is the quickest and cheapest way to get your product out the door. More expensive brands, double, triple even quadruple distill their product. This multiple distillation process removes impurities at every pass. These premium vodkas are then filtered with charcoal or other means. Premium vodkas are also made of quality ingredients such as potatoes or wheat while cheap brands are made with corn, sorghum and other cheap starches. Of course, all this costs more to produce, as does the packaging and marketing.
Does this create a better vodka?
When including all elements of the vodka: aroma, fragrance, mouth feel, texture, taste, aftertaste, sorry Karl, price can be a differentiator in vodka quality. Is it always? No. My go-to vodka costs $10 at Trader Joe’s and it is very good. However, I know also the burn of Popov. The burn is the big differentiator in all vodkas. Sure, there are some hidden gems and values, but over all price indicates a better product and that means a smoother one. Less burn, fewer impurities, less harsh hangover.
Of course, you can buy the cheap stuff and filter it yourself in a Brita filter. The folks at Disjointed couldn’t taste the difference between cheap and premium after 4 passes through the filter. However, the unofficial mythbusters thought it was a waste of time and filters.